In line with my current fascination with being well, which includes being happy, I’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life. She has studied happiness extensively and had a blog and another book dedicated to it. Her bibliography reads like my new to-read list. Rubin combines personal anecdotes and thorough research as she outlines her monthly experiments. Being somewhat nerdy, nothing excites me more (in a non-fiction book) than a sentence that begins -“research suggests…” “Research suggests that mindful people tend to be happier, are more likely to feel self-confident and grateful and less likely to feel anxious or depressed, and have heightened self-knowledge.” P41 She’s not selling a universal prescription for happiness. She’s offering her experience and research so that we can find our own keys to happiness. Rubin writes in a genuine, easily accessible manner. I find her writing a joy to read. All non-fiction writers ought to be able to weave a story in the same way a fiction author does -and Rubin does this beautifully.
There hasn’t been much time or brain power to read recently. So I’ve been choosing what I read (of course I’m still reading something!) wisely.
I’ve just managed to finish reading The Busy Woman’s Guide to High Energy Happiness by Louise Thompson.
Recommended for: Anyone who has a fatigue-based illness or who is interested in learning the basics to living well.
This book has really resonated with me because the birth of my son has renewed my passion for getting well. I have so much I want to do with him, with my husband, for my work and in my life.
It is written conversationally and is easily accessible, but it is still backed by research and experience.
There’s a multitude of suggestions that I intend to follow. Including fighting for my right to rest, my right to follow guidelines that enable me to live well (including being in bed by 9.30pm, when I’m usually over the day) and my commitment to healthy living.
Mary Poppins is my favourite childhood character. For a few years I wanted to be her when I grew up, after that I just wanted to play her if I ever had to play a lead role in a movie! So when I saw there was a movie about the author and how the Mary Poppins movie came to be made, despite the author being reluctant, I had to see it.
Mrs Travers as portrayed in Saving Mr Banks is a most adorable character. She is British, proper and respectable. The story behind her stiff character is revealed alongside the story of the development of the script of the Mary Poppins movie.
As a young girl she slowly watches her fantastical father (played admirably by Colin Farrell – previously not on my radar) disintegrate into drink & illness. It becomes clear that when P L Travers says the the characters in her books are family, she means these characters are based upon her family, this is why she held so tightly to her story.
It is a beautifully told, amazingly acted movie. Emma Thompson is superb – she displays the heart within the tough old bird. In refusing to let Mr Banks be a horrid man and Mary Poppins to become a singing joke, she is protecting the legacy of two precious adults from her childhood.
To name only two others from the excellent cast – Tom Hanks played an awesome Walt Disney and the young Pamela, “Ginty”, was astounding – Annie Rose Buckley has a tremendous career ahead of her.
I’ve had to put the biography, Mary Poppins She Wrote, which inspired this movie, on my to-read list!
I’d definitely recommend this movie, especially if you also grew up watching or reading Mary Poppins, or if you just have an interest in biography.
As I mentioned in my 2014 post, I have been reading widely about the changes taking place in my life. I have avoided writing a massive post about pregnancy and baby books and will instead provide a select round up of what I have been burying my nose in so far this year.
Bellagrand, by Paullina Simons
I was so lucky to catch this book almost as soon as it was available at the library by early reservation. It was perfectly what I craved to read. This was a beautifully written, but heart-breaking story, about the slow disintegration of a woman who fell in love with a radical socialist. Her life is plotted with so many downs and just a few magical ups – her love; for her husband, mother, brother and son.
I really enjoyed this story and the protagonist’s strength in the face of so much tragedy. But, by covering so much time, it felt like Gina’s life was mostly summarised, honing in on a few key moments or periods.
City of Fallen Angels, by Cassandra Clare
This is the fourth instalment of The Mortal Instruments series by stunning Young Adult author, Cassandra Clare. Like the previous three, it was an addictive, plot-driven read with a cast of characters I’ve come to love. These books seem so hard to sum up into a sentence, or even a paragraph, but this one follows Clary (now training to be a Shadowhunter), Simon (Clary’s best friend, a newly turned vampire) and Jace (Clary’s Shadowhunter boyfriend) as they follow three different paths that intertwine at the climax. It was a great read!
Chronic Resilience, by Danea Horn
Author, Danea Horn, suffers from a few serious chronic illnesses, including kidney disease, but has not let this rule her life. She is a certified life coach and speaker with a great blog, www.chronicresilience.com. In this book she teaches 10 strategies for coping with chronic illness, featuring women dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses.
I found it to be a great book, well written and ultimately useful – particularly the activities she prescribes for helping you to articulate your own values so you can use your precious energy on the things that matter to you.
The Signature of all Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
This was a big read. It followed the life of a remarkable woman born in the early 1800s. She is a special protagonist and it was a great journey to see the world through her eyes, the eyes of a naturalist. It was sad a great deal, but Alma managed to carve out a good life for herself doing what she loved. This book was exquisitely written, rather different from my usual reads and I enjoyed it.
The Magician’s Nephew, by C. S. Lewis
The story of the beginning of Narnia seemed appropriate for the first book that I read aloud to my bump. It is a gorgeous story and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series to my baby.
On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo
This has been my favourite book around early parenting routines. It advocates a flexible routine, based on the feeding and sleeping needs of infants and babies. It is written in a very accessible manner.
The Thrift Book, by India Knight
This was a very cute read with lots of great ideas for tightening your belt, from home to fashion to entertainment. Written in a funny, off-hand, but passionate manner.
Babyproofing Your Marriage, by Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill, Julia Stone, Rosario Camacho-koppel
An amusing read by four mums who tell both sides of the story in the mum vs. dad warfare that takes place in many homes. From sex to housework, to a(n amusing) table of parents’ time charted by the number of children they have, they approach the subject with honesty, humour and courage.
The Fall of Five, by Pittacus Lore
The fourth book in the I Am Number Four series was just as addictive and well written as the others. This one takes a spin and finds one of the garde (sent to protect earth as children from the invading Mogadorian aliens) on the wrong side.
At the moment I am concurrently reading four great books, including an Audrey Hepburn biography that I am zooming through for my book club next week. I am trying to squish in as many books pre-baby as I can as I am not sure my brain will be up for reading when I lose more sleep than I already have been!
Do you remember my post about the top 10 classics I wanted to read? If you don’t, then you can read it here. Classics like Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and The Great Gatsby were on that top 10 post. I’ve read two of the four classics mentioned. Also, I read one other classic, one that wasn’t on the list. Here’s the list…
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
It chronicles the story of an orphaned boy named Pip as he becomes a gentleman with “great expectations.” Coming of age stories are one of my favourites; it’s the growth, the change, in the main character, due to their experiences that I find myself able to relate with. Charles Dickens wrote such a haunting, intriguing novel with a cast of likable characters that seem real.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
It centres on the doomed love affair between the sensuous, rebellious Anna Karenina and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. I thought it to be both sad and amazing. It saddens me that Anna couldn’t be with Vronsky without being ridiculed by society. I must say that the final part was disappointing; when I was expecting the reactions of Anna’s close ones, it was instead something else; one of the only times she’s mentioned is through disrespect by Vronsky’s mother. Despite that, I will read the book again and see the film starring Keira Knightley.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Surviving her harsh and lonely childhood, orphaned Jane Eyre takes up a post as governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with the dark and sardonic Mr. Rochester, who hides a terrible secret; one that forces Jane to follow her moral convictions—even though it robs her of her happiness. I admire and respect Jane for being strong throughout her childhood, as well as for her independence. Novels with strong women appeal to me immensely. One line I loved was: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” I loved Jane Eyre!
Now that the year is done for me, I have spent more time reading. So, I thought I’d write a round-up on the books that I finished more recently.
Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Tris and Four, along with a few others, decide to travel pass the limits of their world, where their faction-based society was shattered. But what they discover beyond the fence is an outside world just as dangerous as their old one. The conclusion to the Divergent Trilogy—where do I even begin? Firstly, Allegiant, just like its predecessors, was amazing; it was epic, action-packed, compelling…and heartbreaking. And it’s more than the fact that it is the final book. Veronica Roth has done it again, has astounded me, and I can’t wait to read her future novels. In the meantime, I am excitedly waiting for the Divergent film (March 21, 2014).
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Imagine this: You wake up in a lift, remembering only your first name, and join a community of kids in a place known as the Glade, surrounded by a maze with half-animal, half-machine creatures. But wait, there’s more: the very next day, a girl—who, like you, can only remember her first name—arrives with a note, and you discover a dark secret is trapped deep in your mind. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? The Maze Runner was also thrilling, intricate, and full of mystery. Looking forward to the movie next year (September 19, 2014).
Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout
At the end of Opal, Katy was taken by the Daedalus after the raid on Mount Weather, and while trapped, questions arise: who is the real bad guys? Daedalus, mankind, or the Luxen? Meanwhile, Daemon will do anything to get Katy back—no matter what. Origin, the fourth book in the Lux series, takes the series into a more dangerous direction than its preceding instalments. It’s my favourite in the series so far. I didn’t want to put it down—at all—but do you know what the consequence of that is? Reaching the end. And waiting until the next book, Opposition, comes out in August 5, 2014.
Wait for You by J. Lynn
All Avery wants is to escape her old life—especially what happened at a Halloween party five years ago. So, she attends a college far away from home. But there, she gets the attention of Campbell Hamilton—and even falls for him. Then she receives threatening messages from somebody who refuses to let her move on from that night. Unlike the first three books, which are Young Adult, Wait for You is a New Adult. J. Lynn (the pen name Jennifer L. Armentrout writes under for her Adult and New Adult novels) wrote a stunning, gripping, and unforgettable novel. I can’t wait to read Trust in Me, Wait for You in Cam’s point of view, and Be with You, Teresa (Cam’s sister) and Jase’s story (out February 4, 2014).
★★★★★ – excellent!
It’s been over a year since Nate and Adam started their relationship. But when Adam graduates, he takes an off-Broadway job in New York. Through Skype calls, Nate catches glimpses of Adam’s shirtless roommate. Then Nate starts a blog. He also becomes the centre of a school controversy. On meeting a new boy, Nate must confront who and what he really wants.
Nate is an awesome character. For one, he could’ve told Adam to stay, but that’s not what he did; instead, he insisted Adam to pursue his dream, not wanting to hold him back. All he wanted was for Adam to be happy. Also, in the present events, he isn’t afraid to show anyone who he really is. The t-shirts are a symbol of this—and he also wears them to piss off his English teacher.
I found the slogans on Nate’s t-shirts amusing. Closets are for brooms, not people, the first one says, then there’s the second one: I can’t even think straight. But wait, there’s more: Your gaydar should be going off right about now; the rumor’s right. But, unless I’m [bleep]ing you, it’s none of you business; HOMO, “the O’s were actually pink hearts
”; I kiss boys; and Sexy [bleep].
Overall, Don’t Let Me Go was an awesome read. It really shows the difficulties of a long-distance relationship. Also present, as the blurb says, is timely discourse about bullying, bigotry, and hate in high schools. I love the writing—it’s quite witty.
Esme Garland, an English PhD candidate in New York, has a passion for art history, books and a man who is unhealthy for her. Unfortunately her plans of a challenging academic life are sidetracked when, just as she is about to tell her boyfriend about their unexpected pregnancy, he dumps her, claiming boredom with their sex life. She sets about trying to balance her PhD, a job at a local secondhand bookstore and her imminent baby.
The Bookstore, as stated by a cover quote, is a love song to books and to Manhattan. It is a beautifully written exploration of a young life changed by startling circumstances.
The relationship with her boyfriend bothered me so much, that when she takes him back for a time, I put the book down for a while. He and his family are repulsive.
The secondhand bookstore where she works, The Owl, is expertly rendered, I feel as if I have been there, perusing the shelves of secondhand treasures myself. The team who work at the store are a lovely, eclectic bunch who become Esme’s second family and teach her many lessons about life and books.
The ending is left open, I have my hopes for what happens next for Esme, but it is delightfully full of hope.
Overall, what kept me reading was Meyler’s writing. This was her debut novel and I am excited to read what she produces next. I adored the character Esme and Meyler’s narrative voice. The plot wasn’t captivating in a way that compels you to continue reading, but it was a great story.
Rating: ★★★★☆ – great!
After Callum Harris tumbles down the waterfall, he wakes up in an alternate world of his own. One where his parents aren’t separated. One where his brother, Cole, is paralyzed. One where he is some big sport star. One where more than just his former best friend wants him dead.
“Well, if everything stays the same forever, you stop enjoying what you’ve got. And stop appreciating people.”
A couple of months ago, I came across Undercurrent while I was looking at the books coming soon list on the HarperTeen site. One aspect that reeled me in was the alternate reality. Fascinating, I thought.
When it arrived at the library, I got excited—the way I usually get after waiting, you know, ages. Then, when it came to reading it, I was immediately gripped. There was always questions running through my mind, and they propelled me to read.
However, I feel like there were some unresolved parts, but maybe a sequel can resolve them.
Overall, I thought Undercurrent was intriguing, gripping, and thrilling. I especially loved the sci-fi. Now I’m hoping there will be a sequel.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ – very good!
Wow. I had to decompress for a few days before I could think what to write about The Night Circus.
The story centers on a game between two very old magicians that catches many extraordinary people in their net. The venue is a most spectacular circus with dazzling affects that draws committed followers from all over the world.
Intertwining the stories of Celia, Marcus, Widget, Poppet, a clockmaker and the boy who can save the circus, Morgenstern builds to a shocking climax. While some of the characters are better developed than others, most of their emotions are somewhat soft. Some of the characters are left hanging. It isn’t really clear to me why Marcus is chosen among the other boys at the orphanage, or why the boy who can save the circus is the one. The magic isn’t explained, only that it must appear as an illusion so as not to upset the normal people.
The descriptions of the different elements of the circus are fantastical. I am unsure how the normal people are supposed to ascertain the illusion in some of the tents, like the one where you jump from high up and miraculously land. But it is just the sort of circus I would like to visit.
This story tends towards the literary style, without alienating the audience, much like Audrey Niffenegger – who writes high praise for this book. This book is very much plot driven, with the mystery pulling you through the immense description. Morgenstern is a magical storyteller, the way she weaves words and stories is beautiful. She is truly talented.